Pratik Mazumder, Chief Marketing Officer, Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India Limited

The Indian travel and hospitality industry has been undergoing rapid digitalisation. Enterprises in this domain are now relying heavily on new-age solutions to deliver highly personalised experience to customers. As such, technologies like internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are gaining traction among travel companies and hotels. Technologies like 5G and edge computing have multiple use cases for the travel and hospitality industry. They help enhance customer experience, improve security and take business decisions. Industry players share their views on the evolving technology trends, their uptake and the way forward…

How are next-generation innovations such as AI/ML, AR/VR, cloud and automation reshaping the travel and hospitality sector? What are the main challenges faced while deploying these technologies? How will the emergence of the metaverse impact the travel and hospitality industry?

AI could drastically improve and change every element of travel. For instance, cognitive chatbots can help travellers at every stage of their journey by delivering suggestions on where to go, where to eat, and where to go sightseeing based on their in­terests and preferences. Meanwhile, AI is al­ready helping us predict our member preferences from the gathered booking behaviour data and demographics. The ex­tensive use of cloud infrastructure to ma­­­na­ge technological needs is another convenient solution. It helps us churn out data faster, aligning our deliverance with higher member demand.

The challenge in implementing these innovations in the hospitality industry is going to be data gathering and interpretation. By way of functioning, the hospita­lity industry has various verticals that are either diversified or siloed. Data collected from these verticals will be challenging to in­terpret and consolidate for generating meaningful insights and ensuring returns at par with the investment that goes into the gathering process.

Metaverse is likely to aid the travel sector by giving potential customers a pre­vi­ew of what they are about to encounter, associate with, or sign up for. While travellers will be able to look out for hotel rooms and locations before making a reservation, they will also be able to un­d­erstand the process through a virtual de­monstration. Virtual tours of properties and locations will entice customers even before they have decided to book a holiday, thereby creating a recommender mo­del. It will also help them to best use their time and resources once they are at the venue. It will further make the booking process more enjoyable and interesting as it will enable customers to pay easily and conveniently, negotiate arrangements with (real or virtual) agents, and make inquiries.

Going forward, what are the key digital trends you foresee in the sector in the next three years?

A mix of unique and modern solutions is being introduced into the digital tourism sector thanks to the fast-paced developments in the digital world. The integration of IoT with operations seems like a natural transition for the tourism and hospitality industry. Even within homes we have connected devices and smart integration am­o­ng switches, devices and appliances. The ad­option of IoT for the management of rooms will certainly add convenience and reduce dependency, benefiting hotel staff, resort owners and team, as well as custo­me­rs. As customers are more digitally literate, and also open to newer experiences delivered digitally, the integration of such a technology into the services offered by the hospitality sector will add great value to the entire travel and holiday experience.